PRODUCTION – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
Customers often ask about our production, including the ways we promote fair, safe and healthy conditions in our factories in Bangladesh and China.
Rest assured, these factories are hand-picked for their social and environmental performance as well as their quality production.
- Production is certified under our own Code of Conduct as well as by reputable international organisations.
- Our factories are audited by demanding third party inspection teams.
- If audits show corrective measures are required, we work with factories and our certification providers to develop a corrective action plan
and a timeline for follow-up audits.
- Through our Code of Conduct, we insist on fair, safe and healthy factory workplace conditions.
- We insist that factories pay their workers a legal minimum wage or better. Workers may voluntarily accept overtime work with pay at a premium rate,
and workers have the right to join a union.
- We trace our supply chain, providing transparency throughout.
- We keep our production policies and Code of Conduct up to date and continually monitor our suppliers.
At AS Colour we recognise our responsibilities to workers for the conditions under which our products are made. These responsibilities extend to all workers producing products or services for us.
We believe that good workplace standards, decent health and safety requirements, fair pay and conditions, and care for the environment are important elements in business success.
We value all of our employees, and set the same high standard for their working conditions as we set for the high quality of our products.
1. Where are AS Colour products made and how do you choose factories?
Our core T-shirting range is produced in Bangladesh and our more detailed garments are produced in China. The specific country of origin for each product can be found on our labels and on our Factories page.
Criteria for factory selection:
- Quality – technology, skill, location, price, and efficiency continue to be the main factors which lead us to a new supplier. These factors provide us with a quality product for our customers.
- Environmental performance – if we can reduce environmental impact without sacrificing quality, we do so.
- Social performance – we discuss the standards set in our Code of Conduct and how owners can improve to meet them.
2. Under which standards is AS Colour's Production and supply chain certified?
We have listed certifications for each of our factories on our Factories page.
Code of Conduct:
- Our Code forms the principal part of our commitment to social responsibility by upholding worker rights and protecting them against abuses. It applies to each of our factories. Compliance with the Code is enforced by way of independent audits.
- The Code is based around International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles and goes beyond minimum legal requirements. ILO’s Four Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work define prohibitions against child labour, forced labour and discrimination, and guarantees for worker rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- WRAP is the world’s largest independent factory-based social compliance certification programme for the sewn products sector.
- Its 12 Principles cover: compliance with local laws, prohibition of forced labour, child labour, discrimination, harassment or abuse, compensation and benefits, hours of work, health and safety, freedom of association, environment, customs compliance, security.
- WRAP provides for at least annual unannounced audits, which include allowance for off-site employee interviews. From this, corrective action plans are put in place as well as follow-up audits to resolve any non-compliance before certification is awarded.
The Business Social Compliance Initiative is a leading business-driven initiative for companies committed to improving working conditions in factories and farms worldwide. It focuses on production for the European market, and offers a system to monitor working conditions of manufacturers through audits; those audits are then shared. BSCI also provides workshops for customers and manufacturers to raise awareness and tackle improvements. BSCI’s Code of Conduct sets standards for working conditions based on international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, OECD Guidelines, UN Global Compact and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and Recommendations.
Accord on Fire and Building safety in Bangladesh (www.bangladeshaccord.org)
- The Accord is an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions designed to work towards a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment Industry. The aim is to enable a working environment in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.\
- As a signatory AS Colour is committed to: an independent inspection programme, disclosure of all factories, inspection reports and corrective action plans, an assurance that sufficient funds are available for remediation, health and safety committees in all factories, training programmes, complaints mechanisms and the right for workers to refuse unsafe work.
Our own contact with factories
- Finally, members of the AS Colour team visit each of our factories on a regular basis (twice per year). We are also in contact daily by email and phone.
- Our Code of Conduct and our own contact details are displayed in each factory and workers are made aware of them. They may contact us directly should they suspect any Code violations or have issues which they feel cannot be resolved via their employer.
3. Who audits the factories that AS Colour works with?
Rigorous third party inspection teams have rated our suppliers’ production facilities among the highest in the industry for quality. We hold audit reports and certifications on file and make these available in confidence upon request.
- SGS are the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.
- We work with SGS to ensure production and quality control, and carry out independent ethical checks against our Code of Conduct.
WRAP (www.wrapcompliance.org) and BSCI (www.bsci-intl.org)
- WRAP and BSCI conduct at least annual unannounced audits which include allowance for off-site employee interviews. From this, corrective action plans are put in place as well as follow up audits to resolve any non-compliance before certification is awarded.
4. What are the consequences if a factory fails to meet these standards or if violations are found?
- Where necessary, we work with factories and our certification providers to develop a corrective action plan and a timeline for follow-up audits. These details are made transparent on our Factories page. Corrective action may involve basic changes or in some cases more serious training and on-site help.
- We aim to help in all cases, but once made aware of any inadequacies, it is ultimately up to the factory concerned to make the necessary changes in order to comply. If a factory fails to comply with our required standards within a reasonable timeline, we will not continue working with them.
- In some cases where there have been violations WRAP will step in to uphold the rights of workers.
5. What are the work conditions and hours like?
- In addition to the minimum requirements at law, our Code of Conduct requires suppliers to prohibit employment of workers under force, for excessive hours or in hazardous conditions.
- Further, even if local law (on the mandatory school age) allows it, we will not work with a factory that employs workers under the age of 15 (as per standards set by the International Labour Organisation).
6. What are the wages like?
- We require factories to pay their workers a legal minimum wage or better. Workers may voluntarily accept overtime work with pay at a premium rate, and they have the right to join a union.
- We agree with the ‘fair wage’ or ‘living wage’ principle and prefer working with factories which pay workers enough to meet their basic needs. However, not all our factories pay all workers a living wage; here’s why:
- Garment production is low paid and competitive, and factories often work with multiple customers. So for a factory to pay workers more, all customers must agree to pay more.
- We believe the ultimate solution is a collaborative effort to establish higher wages by encouraging governments to implement improved legal minimum wages. For example, the Fair Labour Association helps to put in place wage standards as well as a graduated or ‘stepped’ timetable for achieving improvements to wages.
- From the results of our own SGS audits and WRAP monitoring, we know that many of our factories pay above minimum wage for some or all of their workers already.
- Note that even in developed countries there is a gap between legal minimum wages (paid by a large number of employers) and what is considered to be a fair living wage.
7. Does AS Colour's commitment to social responsibility extend beyond direct factories/suppliers (traceability)?
- AS Colour is committed to tracing our full supply chain and providing transparency throughout. This includes cotton farming, textiles production (fabric-making), and cut-make-trim manufacturing. Information about the origin of our materials helps us control the quality of outputs and also assess environmental and social impacts. That’s why we require our suppliers to answer sourcing questions and map their own supply chains.
- Our unique production process means that most of our direct factory suppliers control not only cut and sew but also the manufacture of textile yarn. This process means that our suppliers are not buying fabric off the market from unknown sources. It also helps us ensure consistent high quality output for our customers.
- Beyond this level we try to trace back to our raw material sourcing and production. We admit, though, that implementing changes at this level of our supply chain is more difficult.
Cotton farming (www.sourcingnetwork.org/the-cotton-pledge)
- We ensure we don’t use cotton sourced from Uzbekistan where child labour has been used systematically. We have communicated this pledge to our suppliers, who aid us in auditing this undertaking.
- Our Code of Conduct prohibits subcontracting of our manufacturing. So our factories cannot, without our knowledge, pass our orders onto another manufacturer who may not be monitored and certified against our workplace standards.
- We keep track of this by monitoring our suppliers’ production volumes against their capacities. This is assisted by our responsible purchasing model whereby we have stable and consistent orders on a generous timeline. This allows for stable production lines in our factories.
- We also have systems in place for our suppliers to map and keep records on subcontracting and fabric sourcing.
8. Are futher social contributions given to factory workers?
- Many of our suppliers provide compensation beyond the legal minimum wage. These benefits include dental and health care, health insurance, retirement payments, housing payments, and respect for religious beliefs or festivals.
9. How are AS Colour and the factories you work with being kept up to date with improving standards os social responsibilty in produciton?
- Our suppliers consistently update and improve their manufacturing facilities, making full use of all the technological advancements in the textile industry. To ensure compliance with the best ethical standards we engage in continual monitoring of our suppliers and aim to keep our own policies and Code up to date.
- By imposing standards above the minimum ethical standards at law we ensure high quality products for our customers. This also helps encourage local governments to continue updating their policies, which is what is ultimately required to improve working conditions in the countries in which we manufacture.
- We implement responsible purchasing and preferred supplier policies:
- The world of fast-fashion and quick-order turnarounds is what often causes workers to be forced into overtime, squeezed prices and in turn wages. By contrast, at AS Colour we consider ourselves almost anti-fashion in that we operate with stable orders with stable prices. This helps bring certainty to the factories. They can plan our production schedules and avoid working under excessive pressure, which often causes breaches in ethical standards.
- We aim to make further improvements by trying, where possible, to consolidate our supply chain to as few suppliers as possible. When our orders contribute to a greater percentage of a supplier’s overall production it allows us to have more control, of both product quality and ethical standards in the workplace.
10. If AS Colour believes in transparency, why don't you go further by naming and detailing the factories that you work with?
- The nature of our industry means that we consider certain information to be sensitive. If this information was to be public there would be a considerable risk that large volume competitors could take over our production and squeeze us out of the market completely.
- We are happy, however, to make this information available, in confidence, to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and independent auditors.